Surviving the Holidays
5 quick tips and reminders on managing expectations and kids during vacation
I love the holidays - the lights, the holiday treats, the gift-giving, family time, reflections - all of it. And also, especially with young kids, it can be exhausting. All the routines are broken, tantrums are up, and the logistics of travel, presents, and the lack of work distractions make this be a joyous but not necessarily a relaxing time.
As we head into this intense period, I look to my favorite resources for strength and ideas, specifically, Aha Parenting has a Survival Guide for the Holidays as well as a list of ideas for December family traditions (they updated this recently with COVID in mind). So I wanted to share my tips and reminders (to myself) from my reading and my experiences over the years:
Disconnect from work - switching gears and going into 100% parent/spouse/friend mode is important - sometimes it’s more important for people around you (such as your kids having you be present) than it is for you. My kids are getting old enough to notice and comment on my ability to be present and my oldest now says things like “I loved the holidays the most
because we got to spend lots of family time together.” Their memories are worth it. For all the times I’ve tried to multitask through the holidays in the past, I do not remember a single call or email that I sent at the end of December.
Mix in low-key activities with all the excitement - one of the favorite things we do as a family is driving around our neighborhood looking at Christmas lights, listening to holiday music, and drinking hot chocolate. It’s not fancy, but it’s memorable and lovely. This year, we were looking for Christmas unicorns - you’d be surprised to know how many of those make it into front yard decorations.
Remove expectations from yourself and your kids - everyone gets overstimulated with excitement, expectations and sugar. Busy Toddler has a great post on this calling out that being 2 and 38 is fine…even at Christmas.
I am going to try to be more mindful of the surroundings and try to find quiet moments for the kids and myself when I start seeing tired eyes and unproductive energy. Also, my plan is to really try to do no more than one big activity per day and preferably not every day.
Keep a roll of painter’s tape with you. If you are a parent with children under 8, this is not a joke - it is an awesome hack when traveling. Here are just a few use cases: make a toy parade while waiting for food to arrive at a restaurant, set up an animal rescue on the back of an airplane tray table, or play tic-tac-toe in a pinch when you’ve run out of paper or pencils. In addition to the tape trick, I also create busy bags for each kid that I keep with novel small things - stickers, notepads, a pack of animals/princesses, etc. Lots of ideas on Pinterest, but over the years, I’ve just made my own busy bags that make sense for the kids.
Get outside. We do a pretty good job always getting kids outside for a playground or a park over the holidays, but I’m going to try to do better at also moving my body and having a dedicated 10-20 minutes to a workout for myself. I find myself to be a much better human if I get some movement in. If you are traveling, this means thinking about yourself and not just your kids’ suitcase. I notoriously overpack for kids and under pack for myself, so remembering the basics: tennis shoes and sports bras is pretty key if you are to have a chance to get a workout in. I have also been using the Peloton app and in the past have used Apple Fitness+ when I’m on the go.
Thanks for reading and if you are interested in other parenting-focused writing from this year, check it out here.